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A Silent Force Soft Spoken Lina Parra Finds Her Voice In Youth Wrestling PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 26 June 2014 02:53

M. Terry / SFVS.

A Champion’s Collection — Lina Parra of Mission Hills has demonstrated a real talent for wrestling in the CAGWA youth leagues.

Lina Parra is a quiet yet pleasant young girl who, on first glance, appears to be a typical pre-teen. She also has a kind of unassuming shyness around people she doesn’t know that is often found in girls her age.

But when Parra, 12, wants your attention, she’ll take you to the mat — literally.

The Mission Hills youngster is building a terrific reputation as a wrestler. She has been steadily collecting championship belts, trophies and medals in tournaments on the California Age Group Wrestling Association (CAGWA), a grassroots organization that claims to be the largest K-8 wrestling association in the state. It hosts 13 tournaments from October to June in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura counties and the Inland Empire.

Parra carries between 95 and 100 competitive pounds on her sinewy yet deceptive 5-5 frame that gives no hints of her strength and speed. Her other advantages: she’s been coached for seven years primarily by her father Humberto, who also coaches her CAGWA team the Slammers; she loves to train and practice, working out at the Boys & Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley and the 818 Boxing Club in Pacoima; and she is technically sound enough to defeat boys in her weight class.

But getting her to talk about it is like trying to open a bank vault with a hairpin.

Is the training fun? “Yeah.” Are you surprised at how good you are. “Yeah.”

Is she teased at Porter Middle School, where she is entering the seventh grade, about being a wrestler. “No.”

Perhaps they know better.

Humberto is happy to fill in some blanks. Parra is the second of his three children — oldest son Michael (from a previous marriage) is 24, youngest daughter Vivanna is eight. Michael wrestled at San Fernando High before attending UC Berkeley, where he now works. When Parra was four, she used to watch her brother work out, then started mimicking his conditioning exercises.

Humberto was intrigued and decided to see if Parra had the interest and aptitude to continue. He started working with and coaching her, teaching her a few basic moves. When Parra was five he entered her in her first CAGWA youth tournament in Bakersfield in 2007, and she placed third.

“I thought ‘man, I got something going here,’” Humberto said.

There was one other family member to convince — Christina Rodriguez, Humberto’s wife and Parra’s mother. In the beginning she was not that enthused about watching her daughter rolling around mats with boys, even when Parra started winning.

“Now I like it because she has come so far,” Rodriguez said. “It was hard for me to think a little girl could do what she’s doing now and wrestle boys. We didn’t have that when I was growing up. But I started going to the tournaments to watch, and now I am her biggest cheerleader.”

Rodriguez is quite amused when she sees a boy wrestling her daughter for the first time, unaware that she is highly skilled for her age and weight group.

“I see the father tell his son ‘She's just a girl, you’ll take her.’ And then when Lina wins or pins him, all hell breaks loose between the dads and the sons,” she said.

Parra is also a quick learner. At a recent match, she made a bad throw attempt on her opponent and found herself on her back. She managed to avoid being pinned, and held out long enough until the referee blew the whistle and the wrestlers resumed their battle standing up.

“She let the other girl get better leverage,” Humberto said. “But as she walked back to the mat she looked at me and said ‘all right,’ as if she understood her mistake. Next thing I know, she pins the other girl.”

Parra does have other interests. Her favorite subject at school is English, and she enjoys reading and writing. Her favorite singer/rapper is Nicki Minaj. This summer she be playing basketball and also learning judo. And she loves the family dogs Scoobie (German Shepard), Bugsy (pit bull) and Chocolate (poodle).

She also loves wrestling. When asked if she would quit tomorrow if Humberto asked her to, the shy smile momentarily leaves her face and is replaced by determination. “No. I really like it.”

Nothing more needed to be said.